I’m Not Sorry

When I talk about the past – what I experienced, how I felt, how I feel now, how it’s impacted my life – I can’t help but say things that will be hurtful to somebody. I don’t write to bring pain to others or to make people angry. I write because it’s therapeutic to my soul. I write to shed light on what has hurt others and will continue hurting others if it’s not changed. I write because to remain silent is to die. 
I’m not bitter. Sometimes I’m angry, sonetimes melancholic, sometimes sad; expressing my feelings doesn’t mean I’m bitter, though. I have a voice and I’ve learned the power of using it. I squelched my feelings for far too long in an attempt to prevent the pain that speaking honestly would bring. I’m done with that. 

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To those who weren’t raised Independent Fundamental Baptist

I don’t think you really understand.

You didn’t spend a minimum of 35 hours a week surrounded by the same people in the same building all teaching you the same thing. 30 hours a week at the church-run school from K5-12th grade (with near-daily chapel services) plus a minimum of 5 hours spent at the same place for church services. This does not include the countless hours spent preparing for children’s ministries, attending/assisting with Vacation Bible School every summer, being the child of a teacher at said school, doing special projects, and attending revival services multiple times a year. 

You didn’t spend over 35 hours a week being taught that the (King James version) Bible was the final authority on everything, including science. That psychology and philosophy  were questionable fields because they put too much emphasis on man’s reasoning. That women were subservient to men because, in the Biblical story of Creation, Eve made a mistake. That men were responsible for the spiritual welfare of women, to the point that a father had “headship” over his daughter until he passed that onto her husband one day. That, as an impressionable 3rd grader, God saw it as sin when women wore pants (so I went home and cleaned out my drawers). That, as a tender 6th grader, “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.” (Hebrews 13:4) and all the sins of America were the cause for events like 9/11. That Hurricane Katrina was God’s judgement for the “homosexual agenda” in America. That the end of the world was near and you should make ready for Christ’s return. Did you ever discuss with your friends whether or not it was worth getting married and having kids because the Rapture was imminent and we wouldn’t have time to raise a family? 

Did your Sunday school teacher instill in you a fear that black men were dangerous sexual predators? Did your Sunday teacher ask you to sign a paper saying that you would “keep yourself pure” until marriage, even though you were too young (and uneducated) to have a clue what that meant? Did you grow up with constant body policing, because one wrong move would cause a brother to stumble and lust after you? Were you told you were responsible for what someone else thought, felt or did – to the point that a rape victim was probably “asking for it” or otherwise responsible. Were the concepts of women wearing makeup or cutting their hair topics of heated debate? Were the women you knew and respected instructed to remain silent and submissive while the men ran everything? Were those women only allowed to use their skills and talents in certain positions (teachers of children, nursery workers, musicians, secretaries) and absolutely prohibited from being in positions of leadership? Did your church seem like it was stuck in the 50’s or perhaps the Old Testament times? Did you ever hear Scripture used to say that black people were cursed, or any other support of racism? Did you hear a pastor repeatedly say the Roman Catholic Church and some other religions were evil and that adherents to other faiths were deceived? Were you told you had the truth and all other ways were Satanic and led to Hell? Did you repeatedly hear about the gruesome death of Jesus (even as a young child) and how much you owed him because of it. 

Were you constantly scrutinized and held to ridiculous standards based on radical interpreting of an ancient holy text? Were you told that all music with a pop/rock/non-marching band beat was “the Devil’s music?” That if you were riding in a car with someone playing “bad” music you should speak up and have them turn it off, because your testimony was on the line? Were you expected to judge everyone else for their choices? Were you expected to tell random strangers that they were bad people who were destined to an enternity in Hell? Were you told you were responsible for the souls of millions around the world, because if you didn’t tell them or have a good enough testimony then they wouldn’t know Jesus and be saved from Hell? Was “the will of God” constantly used as the supreme tool of manipulation against you by others?

Did your college require you to attend three religious services a week in addition to daily chapel services and many credit hours of religious classes? Was your college considered liberal because women were allowed to wear pants (not jeans though) after class hours? Did you have to have all non-skirts personally approved by a live-in supervisor in your dorm? Did you have to attend and participate in nightly Bible-reading and prayer times in your dorm? Did any of your friends face potential expulsion, strict monitoring, threats, and religious “counseling” due to admitting they were questioning their faith?

Did you ever have a therapist look at you compassionately and tell you that you grew up in a cult? Have you ever felt panicked at the idea of going to church? Does religious music which speaks of sin, salvation, blood, and death trigger a panic attack? Have you had to completely relearn how to live? Have you spent hours in therapy trying to make sense of it all? 

I undertook liberty four years ago but I will spend a lifetime recovering and relearning.

What Should the Christian Life Look Like?

The Good Samaritan

Today I saw an ad for an advent calendar made with fair trade chocolates. It was put out by a Catholic charity. It got me thinking about what Christians lives would look like if they got hardcore about following the words of Jesus.

Christians would:

  1. Only purchase fair trade or other ethically made items.
  2. Be huge proponents of recycling and other choices that keep God’s earth healthy and well maintained.
  3. Only eat/wear organic because it doesn’t harm God’s earth or their bodies (temple of God) the way chemically produced items does.
  4. Only eat humanely, sustainably raised animals (see number 2).
  5. Choose to shop at small, local shops or farms when possible because big companies rarely treat employees ethically (see number 1).
  6. Only drive fuel efficient or hybrid vehicles (see number 2).
  7. Avoid waste and consumerism by living a simple life instead.
  8. Regularly offer food and shelter to homeless and needy people.
  9. Always stop to help people stranded on the side of the road (flat tire, etc.).
  10. Give aid to the sick through your own efforts or provide funding for someone else to help.
  11. Live peaceful lives and avoid aggression whenever possible.
  12. Be more worried about loving each other than about hating our differences.

The movement of Christianity I grew up in fell miserably short in all of these areas. I think they had replaced Christlikeness with Pauline doctrine. Instead of love there was a set of strict rules. Judgment of others rather than seeing needs and meeting them. In their eyes, the only help worth offering was informing people they were bad and going to Hell. Jesus didn’t set that example. Christianity needs more Jesus.

May We Find Peace and Healing

Today is Veterans Day. Today we honor the men and women who have served their country as soldiers. I am thankful for those who have chosen to stand for what they believed in, even in the face of war and death. I mourn for them and their families, though.

Don’t talk to me about atrocities in war; all war is an atrocity” – Lord Kitchener

I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.” – Albert Einstein

I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

In war, there are no unwounded soldiers.” – Jose Narosky

War is not a beautiful, glorious thing. The bravery and selflessness of people is beautiful and praiseworthy, but not war itself. Take the time to go to Google Images and look at pictures from US wars. The horrors of war captured in each image can never be unseen. I can’t imagine how it impacts someone who was there, who experienced those terrible moments. No-one should ever be put in that position. To come home and try to fit back into everyday life after seeing hell on earth… how do you it? Veterans have sacrificed so much and must not be forgotten by the rest of us. I’m ashamed that the US has done such a lousy job of supporting the soldiers it so readily sends off to war. Veterans deserve every bit of support we can give them – mental, physical, spiritual, financial… anything they need. After what they’ve been through, it’s the least we can do to help them find peace and healing.

May we all find peace and healing – all of us the whole world over.


This thought has stuck in my mind: each soldier was once someone’s baby. Each soldier has or had a mother who (hopefully) gazed at her little child in wonder as her heart burst with love. Each soldier was once a smiling, cooing baby who wanted nothing more than to be fed and loved. As the mother/stepmother of two boys, my heart breaks just thinking about sending one of them off to war. After my baby was born, I held him closely and wondered how anyone could be pro-war. I looked at his sweet face and imagined him as a soldier, weapon in hand, marching off to face death; the image moved me to tears. Sure, the oldest boy was Link for Halloween, complete with a sword, shield, and bow. He thinks fighting and killing are a game. I’ve tried my best to communicate otherwise to him, but he’s simply not ready to grasp the gravity of those topics. Sadly, I think there a lot of people who do not grasp the gravity of violence and death, despite being much older than three (almost four) years old.

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Little “hero” who has no understanding of what heroism is or entails.

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How does a mother ever let go of her sweet baby to send him off to war?


Whether or not war is necessary is a topic I have no desire to discuss at length. It seems to me that it is a necessary evil at times (WWII comes to mind), but those times are few and far between. I don’t understand why the US government has chosen to continuously send soldiers across seas to fight and die. Do they realize they are sending someone’s baby to fight and kill someone else’s baby? This is not Sparta, where women send their men to war with cries of “Come back with your shield or on it.” I’d like to think society has evolved past that point, particularly a society that claims to be Christian. Kill or be killed is an evolutionary status quo, one that we should be able to transcend by now.

Aren’t we tired of seeing images like this?


The courage of those who receive awards like the Medal of Honor, Purple Heart, etc. is truly amazing. These men and women deserve to be honored and their valiant acts remembered. But wouldn’t it be amazing if their great deeds were unnecessary because there was no war? Aren’t we ready to be done with fighting and killing? Isn’t peace and love what Christ and so many other spiritual teachers and leaders have called for?

Isaiah 2:4 – “And He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”

Can we all join together to pray for peace and work toward a society where we no longer “learn war?”

Who Wants to Live Forever?

This post on Patheos about remembering the dead has inspired me to stop and take a look at a subject I often don’t ponder: death.

Fall

Every living thing dies, eventually. Many stories have been written about people who magically cheat death (note my Highlander reference in the title), but in reality we all die. Most people don’t like to think about this, of course, so I find it helpful that death gets recognized by a holiday season. With all the seasonal changes that accompany Autumn, it’s no wonder that now is the time of year when people chose to honor death and the dead. I didn’t grow up observing Halloween. Most Christian fundamentalists I know consider Halloween to be the Devil’s holiday. I heard countless sermons and explanations of why it was a Pagan holiday and therefore evil and scary. After spending a lot time researching Paganism, I came to realize that Halloween (or Samhein) was viewed as a time to remember the dead, particularly dead loved ones who have gone on before us. I think this concept is absolutely beautiful. My Grandma Alice, who died when I was five years old, has been on my mind during the last year. I hardly got to know her, but the memories I do have of her are beautiful. I know she was a wonderful person full of love and kindness. During my pregnancy I felt like she was somehow watching over me, like a guardian angel. With Halloween coming up, my thoughts have turned to her again. I want to remember her, to honor her memory and keep it alive.

I think it’s important to remember the dead, as well as to take the time to face death and even celebrate it. The more familiar you are with something the less scary it becomes – I imagine this applies to death. Why not embrace the season of dying, Autumn, by observing a holiday like Halloween? Our lives mirror the seasons, after all: we spend much time celebrating Spring, with it’s birthing of new life; we glorify Summer, with it’s power and growth; but then when we get to Fall, when life begins to slow and fade away, we shrink back; the cold death of Winter is feared all the more. Halloween celebrates that transition from life to death, the change from light to darkness – it promotes a healthier approach to life. Skeletons, gravestones, and even the grim reaper are all reminders of death that can be viewed positively during Halloween. I’m not a fan of overly grim and scary decorations, or of doing things with the intent of getting myself scared silly… but I see the merit in facing one’s fears playfully.

Anyway. If I get a chance I want to post poems and whatnot that speak of death. I have found several already, I just keep getting derailed from posting them (might be the 7 week old and the almost-4 year old who distract me).

Nerdiness

Whilst watching the classic Disney version of Robin Hood (with the critters), my husband and I began discussing the conundrum that Robin Hood’s story creates. When I was a fundamentalist I was greatly perplexed by this conundrum. How could I, in good conscience, cheer for a thief? How could Robin Hood be the good guy? My husband pointed out that Robin Hood is chaotic good and Prince John and his cohorts are lawful evil (yes, we be nerds). The alignment grid is a pretty fascinating thing, in my opinion. I’m neutral good and my husband is lawful good. Anyway. My husband had the realization that Jesus could potentially join Robin Hood as chaotic good on the alignment grid. I had never thought of it before, but there are certainly some similarities between Robin Hood and Jesus. That being said, I’m not sure where I’d place Jesus on the grid. If I’m viewing him as a man, then I would consider him neutral good. If I’m viewing him as the literal Son of God, then I’d have to say he’s lawful good because he is the law… if that makes sense. It’s an interesting thing to ponder, eh?

Now I have a strong urge to go through famous Bible characters and place them on the grid. I googled to see if anyone else had made a chart for Bible characters but I didn’t find one. I’m surprised by this. Maybe someday if I get bored….

Where do you think Jesus sits on the grid? What about other Bible characters? Help me have some fun!

Why (go back to) Christianity?

In the past my religious beliefs were focused on what was right and what was wrong. When I was a fundamental Christian I thought I was right because I believed the Bible was 100% right. When I realized the Bible wasn’t 100% right, my Christianity melted away into unbelief. I then started considering other worldviews, but was still viewing them through the lens of right or wrong. I began to realize that I couldn’t nail down any view as 100% right or wrong. I discovered the term spiritual but not religious and clung to it because it allowed me to embrace my spirituality without subscribing to any particular brand of belief. As time went on I began to hone in on certain aspects of spirituality that were important to me, but I found those aspects in a broad spectrum of religions. Earth-based spirituality particularly resonated with me, as I have always been an earthy sort of person. I felt free to explore spiritual practices that had previously been labeled as evil; I learned much from this exploration and benefited greatly from what I learned. Later I introduced myself to the concept of Unitarian Universalism and felt at home. Again I was not locking myself into any one brand of belief; here I was able to benefit from all beliefs. Over time I languished in the broadness of Unitarian Universalism, though. I will always be a universalist, because I do believe that all people are one and the Divine loves us all the same, but I crave a more specific spiritual path. This is what has led me back to Christianity, albeit a form of Christianity so unlike my previous faith that I hardly recognize it.

Why do I crave this return to Christianity? My reasons are not strictly religious and will probably make many people cringe.

So be it.

Onward. As I explained in my previous post, “If I was willing to look for the Divine within the framework of other faiths and their myths/sacred texts (without the binders of fundamentalism), why am I not willing to do the same for Christianity?” Christianity brings a lot of baggage to the table, including my previous experience with it. I have not forgotten my previous issues with Christianity, but I have worked through them to the point that I am content to move past them. Christianity brings many benefits to the table. It’s no secret that the majority of Americans identify as some form of Christian. Christian churches of varying denominations are found wherever there are people. By contrast, Unitarian Universalist congregations are usually much fewer and farther between. The local UU church does have several young families and a good children’s program, but (as I’ve mentioned before) it hasn’t been quite what I’m looking for in a church. If I choose a progressive Christian church I believe I’m more likely to find what I’m looking for, since church is truly a place of worship in Christianity.

Christianity is the norm, not the exception. I’m familiar with the imagery and the sacred text it’s based on. There is much about Christianity that is beautiful to me. It’s comfortable. As someone who tends to end up on the fringe of society, I’m tired of being the odd man out. I have multiple food restrictions that make eating out almost impossible; I have multiple chronic health conditions that restrict my lifestyle options; and I’m raising a child with special needs who makes getting out very difficult. For once, I just want to be almost normal and able to be involved in an average community of kind, spiritual people. If I need to return to viewing the Divine through the lens of Jesus and Yahweh, that’s fine. my boysFor the sake of my boys, I want a distinct spirituality to embrace and a community of people to share the experience with. I’m comfortable with teaching them how much Jesus loves the little children and reading Bible stories together. I won’t be teaching them an inerrant view of Scripture, though. I will teach them a universalist version of Christianity that focuses on love and peace. When they ask why the God of the Old Testament was so violent and harsh, I’m comfortable explaining that that was how people lived when that text was written – all the old mythologies from around the world tell of similarly behaved divinity. When they ask me questions I can’t answer about the Divine, I will not feel the need to say “God’s ways are not man’s ways” or any of the other cliched lines I heard as a fundamentalist. The Bible is not the answer to everything and it doesn’t need to be.

That’s all for now.

Stepping Stones

Earlier I reblogged Defeating the Dragons post on why she’s still a Christian. Here are some more words from around the internet regarding Christianity that I found interesting. I guess I’ve been reading and collecting them for quite awhile. As a result, I’ve slowly been realizing that one can operate under Christianity without being exclusive, judgmental, or be required to take the Bible literally.These have all helped me feel that I can still be a universalist while following the teachings of Jesus and being inspired by the Bible.

The One About God, the Church, and Modern Religion

“I believe morality comes from the Bible for many.  I don’t think it’s the only source of morality.”

Why the Rapture Isn’t Biblical… and Why It Matters

“This world renewed is going to be our home for eternity, and we have the opportunity to reflect that future in our present. Rapture invites us to escape this world: the last thing that Jesus would have ever taught! “On earth as in heaven” is what he said, not “in heaven away from the earth!” Our world’s future is hopeful. Let’s tell that story and not the escapist narratives that many of us grew up with.”

Keeping Jesus, Letting Go of Christian Exceptionalism

“The degree to which Christianity will contribute to a more equitable and just world will depend largely, I believe, upon the degree to which Christians can let go of their exclusive claims on God and deepen their actual commitment to the way of Jesus.”

Reading Genesis 1 “Literally”

“This is why biblical literalism (in the sense stated at the beginning) fails. It fails to read Genesis 1 literally. It fails to acknowledge the ancient writer’s worldview. It tries to cram modern rationalism and modern pseudo-science into an ancient text, and in so doing, it completely ignores the sacredness of the text—its poetic beauty, its structure, its focus on the sacred week, its emphasis on God as creator and on humanity as God’s representatives, and its acknowledgment of the goodness of all creation. All of these things are communicated through a flat earth, dome sky worldview, but they transcend it.”

El Shaddai and the Gender of God

“May we let the power of God’s many names and the multiple metaphors for God expand our understanding of God beyond our comfort. Let us challenge ourselves to speak of God in new ways, in non-limiting ways, in ways that include rather than exclude.”

What is Practical Christianity?

“Christianity is not about theological purity.  It is about following what Jesus taught us and exemplified with his behaviors.  Throughout history, Christians have disagreed with each other on many different points.  The Practical Christian (TPC) does not seek to have all come to agreement on these various points, but seeks agreement on only one thing:  If you are following the teachings of others and applying the name of Jesus Christ to them, you are essentially committing fraud.  There are myriad examples of religious extremists that commit this fraud by practicing a religion of exclusivity instead of the inclusiveness of the teachings of true Christianity.”

why am I still a Christian?

“Christianity at its best, I believe, is about making sure no one is ever enslaved or ever goes hungry. Jesus brought healing and comfort with him everywhere he went, and that’s what I feel that Christians should be doing, too.”
This is very compelling.